Probability Analysis and Database of JFK Assassination Witness Deaths
Richard Charnin (TruthIsAll)
Updated: Feb. 25, 2013
There has been much discussion and controversy regarding the number of unnatural JFK-related witness deaths that occurred following the 1963 assassination. The mysterious deaths were a combination of homicides, suicides, accidents and undetermined origin. This analysis of the probabilities of the deaths occurring over 1-15 year time intervals has been updated in Executive Action: JFK Witness Deaths and the London Times Actuary.
This spreadsheet is a database of over 100 JFK-related witnesses. Most died from unnatural causes; the rest died from suspiciously timed heart attacks and sudden cancers. But only unnatural deaths are used in the probability analysis. The spreadsheet contains the date of death, witness category and connection to the case as well as detailed probability calculations.
Some have questioned the relevance of the unnatural and suspicious witness deaths related to the assassination. Of the 110 witnesses listed in the spreadsheet, 76 were unnatural deaths (homicides, suicides, accidents) and 34 were highly suspicious (heart attacks, sudden cancers, etc.). Sixty-one (61) of the 110 were called to testify: 25 at the Warren Commission, 12 were sought at the Clay Shaw trial by prosecutor Jim Garrison, 4 by the Church Senate Intelligence Committee, 20 by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Ten were sought in two investigations, therefore at least 51 of the 110 were indisputably relevant. But the other 59 were also very relevant (see the database).
What are the odds that 40 of approximately 800 witnesses who were called to testify would die unnaturally, assuming the 0.000154 weighted unnatural mortality rate? Less than 1 in a TRILLION TRILLION TRILLION.
The probability analysis is straightforward; it is not a theoretical exercise. It is a mathematical proof of conspiracy based on factual data (552 Warren Commission witnesses, at least 14 unnatural deaths, corresponding mortality rates) and the Poisson probability formula. The numbers and probabilities speak for themselves. This is a challenge to those who still claim that the deaths do not prove a conspiracy: To substantiate your claim, you must refute the data (i.e., the Warren Commission witness list), the unnatural mortality rates and the use of the Poisson formula.
An actuary engaged by the London Times calculated the probability that at least EIGHTEEN witnesses would die within three years of the JFK assassination as 1 in 100,000 TRILLION. The calculation is mentioned in the 1973 film Executive Action based on a book by the original JFK researcher and lawyer Mark Lane. The film starred Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Will Geer.
However, at least 40 of 1400 JFK-related witnesses died unnaturally in the three years following the assassination. Assuming the conservative national 0.000542 unnatural mortality rate, the probability is less than 1 in 100 TRILLION TRILLION.
A new book by Richard Belzer and David Wayne, Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination, is a comprehensive study of fifty witness deaths and cites the probability calculations presented here.
In Crossfire author Jim Marrs lists 103 individuals related to the assassination who died mysteriously from 1963-1978. Lee Harvey Oswald is not on the list but should be. The list was the starting point used in the analysis.
The reference Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination by Michael Benson presents vital information on each of more than 1,400 individuals (from suspects to witnesses to investigators) related in any way to the murders of President John F. Kennedy, Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit and alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22 and 24, 1963. It is based on years of research using a wealth of data sources and a detailed analysis of the Warren Commission’s twenty-six volumes. This encyclopedic study includes entries on virtually all of the suspects, victims, witnesses, law enforcement officials and investigators involved in the assassination.
The annual homicide rate is 0.000062. The probability of 40 JFK witness HOMICIDES from 1964-77 is 8.8E-46 or 1 in a BILLION TRILLION TRILLION TRILLION.
Apologists have suggested that there were many more than 1400 material witnesses and therefore the probabilities are not valid – without providing a list. To refute this canard, we calculate the probabilities assuming 25,000 material witnesses using the 0.000154 weighted unnatural mortality rate. The probability of 100 unnatural deaths in 1964-77 is 1 in 65 MILLION.
Given the national 0.000542 unnatural mortality rate, 18 unnatural deaths and three year period, the actuary had to assume approximately 555 witnesses (552 testified before the Warren Commission. The actuary’s odds were also exactly matched for 16 deaths, 1324 witnesses and 0.000154 weighted unnatural rate (JFK witness cause of death).
There were at least 15 unnatural deaths in the first year, 40 in the first three years and 76 from 1963-1978. The number of deaths spiked during the 1977-78 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigations of the JFK and MLK murders. The HSCA determined that both murders were conspiracies.
The following graph of unlikely deaths among the 552 Warren Commission witnesses over the 14 year period from 1964-1977 shows that the probability of at least 18 deaths is essentially zero.
Suppose that on Nov. 22, 1963, 1400 individuals were selected at random from the entire U.S. population. Further suppose that within one year, at least 15 would die unnaturally under mysterious circumstances. Based on unnatural death mortality rates, only 1 in a random group of 1400 would be expected to die unnaturally.
There are three possibilities. The 15 unnatural deaths were…
1) unrelated. It was just a 1 in 167 trillion coincidence.
2) unrelated. It was a scam to fool the public into believing that the assassination was a conspiracy.
3) related. There was a common factor -a connection- between them.
We can confidently rule out 1) and 2). Then if the 15 unnatural deaths were related, what was the connection?
Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth. – Arthur Conan Doyle
COINCIDENCE OR CONNECTION?
There were 15 unnatural deaths of JFK-related witnesses within one year of the assassination. In any given year, only one unnatural death would be expected in a random group of 1400. The probability that at least 15 would die unnaturally in any given year is 1 in 167 trillion (see the mathematical proof below). The odds of 15 or more natural deaths in one year in a random group of 1400 is obviously much higher: 43%.
The 15 deaths could not have been a coincidence. There had to be a connection between them. It could have been a) they were interviewed by the Warren Commission, b) scheduled to be interviewed, c) were in the commission witness index or d) related and not interviewed. If they were JFK-related, the deaths were not random. One must therefore conclude that the assassination was a conspiracy.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, was shot by Jack Ruby in front of millions of television viewers on Nov. 24, 1963. He was conveniently disposed of before he could get a lawyer after claiming that he was “just a patsy”. The transcript of Oswald’s interrogation was destroyed.
In 1977, seven top FBI officials died suddenly in the six months from June to November. Two had testified to the Warren Commission; two were #3 FBI officials; two were forensic experts. William Sullivan, a #3 FBI official, died from an “accidental” gunshot while hunting, just before he was scheduled to testify at HSCA. James Cadigan, an FBI document expert, died from a fall in his home. The others died from heart attacks.
In the 3 years following the assassination, there were 40 unnatural deaths out of the 1400 witnesses (2 would normally be expected). The probability is zero (3E-30)!
In the 14 years following the assassination, there were at least 72 unnatural deaths (12 would normally be expected). The probability is ZERO (2.5E-70)
To put these numbers in perspective, there are approximately 7E17 (700,000 trillion) grains of sand on the earth and 3E23 (300 billion trillion) stars in the universe.
This graph displays a range of probabilities that there would be 1-16 unnatural deaths among 1,000-10,000 randomly selected individuals.
This graph displays a table of probabilities that 5 to 65 people in a random group of 2,000 would die UNNATURALLY in 1-15 year intervals.
THE LONDON TIMES AND THE HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON ASSASSINATIONS
In a response to a letter from the 1977 House Select Committee on Assassinations, London Sunday Times Legal Manager Anthony Whitaker wrote: “Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times editorial staff after the first edition – the one which goes to the United States – had gone out, and later editions were amended. There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong: it was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked ” what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time” to which he replied -correctly – that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission Index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower. Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter – hence the fundamental error in our first edition report, for which we apologize”.
That settled the matter for the HSCA which did not bother to ask U.S. mathematicians to analyze the probabilities. One must ask: Why not?
Whitaker obfuscated a very simple mathematical problem: to determine the probabilities of unnatural JFK-related deaths over relevant time intervals: 1, 3, 5, 15 years. He did so by leaving out the word unnatural.
The London Times legal manager made two fundamental errors. The first was an incomplete and misleading statement of the problem. He implicitly assumed deaths of all types, natural and unnatural. He did not distinguish between the two categories. The probability calculations must be based on the expected number of unnatural (not total) deaths.
The second error was the omission of relevant numerical data: He did not provide unnatural death mortality statistics. He failed to show the probability calculations. Why not? Was it because it would prove that the actuary’s calculation was essentially correct?
If the London Times was interested in the truth, it would have confirmed these results:
1) Probability of death of 15 named individuals in the nation
The probability is p=0.000542^15 (1.0e-49) that 15 named individuals in the U.S. population would die unnaturally in any given year, based on the mortality statistics given below. That’s 49 decimal zeros. The odds that 15 named individuals would die of any cause in one year is of course much higher: .01^15 (1.0e-30). But neither one addresses the problem.
2. Probability of 15 deaths in a random group of 1400
The probability that at least 15 out of 1400 randomly-selected individuals would die unnaturally in one year is 1 in 167 trillion (6.0e-15) or ZERO for all practical purposes. Of course, the odds that at least 15 would die of any cause is much higher: 1 in 2 (43%).
Mark Lane is the lawyer who would have represented Oswald and the author of several landmark books on the Kennedy assassination. Rush to Judgment was the seminal book which debunked the Warren Commission. In this video, Lane interviews Penn Jones, a JFK researcher who investigated the strange deaths of many assassination witnesses.
JFK-related witnesses and cause of death.
A summary of JFK deaths.
The Conspiracy Zone shows the analysis presented here.
The Men Who Killed Kennedy
The Forgotten Victims to a Genuine Conspiracy – Part 1
The Forgotten Victims to a Genuine Conspiracy – Part 2
CALCULATING THE PROBABILITY
The probability calculations are based on an approximate 0.000542 annual unnatural mortality rate for an average adult. The probability of death from any cause in a given year is approximately .01.
The probability P of at least n unnatural deaths in a group of N during a time period t is P(n)= f(n,N,t,p), where p is the probability of an unnatural death in a given year. As t increases, the probability that at least n would die of unnatural causes also increases.
Probability of an unnatural death in a given year from…
72 JFK weighted unnatural mortality :0.000159
The odds of dying (lifetime):
Accidental Injury: 1 in 36
Motor Vehicle Accident: 1 in 100
Intentional Self-harm (suicide): 1 in 121
Falling Down: 1 in 246
Assault by Firearm: 1 in 325
THE POISSON DISTRIBUTION
The Poisson distribution is the perfect tool for calculating the probability of a rare event. It is used when the probability of an event (P) is very small and the number of trials (N) is large, and therefore the expected number of events (P*N) is a moderate-sized quantity.
The probability of an unnatural death in ONE year is 0.000542. The expected number (a) of unnatural deaths in one year in a random group of 1400 is 0.7588 = 000542*1400. In other words, in a given year we would normally expect approximately ONE unnatural death in the group. But there were n=15 unnatural witness deaths within one year of the assassination.
The probability P of an unlikely event is calculated in Excel as P = POISSON (n, a, type) where n is the observed number of events; a is the expected number; type is a logical value that determines the form of the probability distribution, discrete (False) or cumulative (True).
N = 1400 = number of witnesses
n = 15 = number of unnatural deaths in ONE YEAR
a = 0.7588 = 000542*1400 (expected number of unnatural deaths in ONE YEAR)
The Poisson function calculates the probability of EXACTLY n unnatural deaths, given the number EXPECTED (a):
P (n) = Poisson (n, a, false)
P (15) = Poisson (15, 0.7588, false) = 5.70E-15.
P (15) = 1 in 175,441,539,952,741 = 1 in 175 TRILLION!
The actual Poisson formula: P(n) = a^n * exp (-a) / n!
P (15) = 5.7E-15 = 0.7588^15 * exp (-.7588) / 15!
But we need the probability of AT LEAST 15 unnatural deaths, not EXACTLY 15.
The probability is 1 – the sum of the probabilities for 0,1,… 14 deaths:
The Cumulative Probability of AT LEAST n=15 deaths:
P (>14) = 1 – Poisson (14, 0.7588, true)
P (>14) = 6.00E-15 or 1 in 166,799,986,198,907
P (>14) = 1 – [prob (0) + prob (1) + prob (2) … + prob (14)]
P (X > 14) = 1 – ∑P(i) where i=0, 14
P (X > 14) = 5.98E-15
P (X > 14) = 1 in 167,145,910,421,722 = 1 in 167 TRILLION!
Probability that at LEAST n out of 1400 witnesses die unnaturally in one year
(declines EXPONENTIALLY as n increases)
n 1 in